Hon. James Brown Neale


HON. JAMES BROWN NEALE, deceased, late President Judge of the Thirty-third Judicial district of Pennsylvania, and for many years associated with the most important legal proceedings in Armstrong county, was born in Pittsburgh, Pa., Feb. 27, 1837. He was closely connected, both by descent and by marriage, with the early pioneer families Families of western Pennsylvania.

His father, Dr. Samuel S. Neale, was born in Burlington, N.J., Jan. 15, 1792, and studied medicine with the celebrated Dr. Benjamin Rush, of Philadelphia, Pa. Dr. Neale after receiving the usual education afforded by the excellent academy of his native town began the study of medicine in Philadelphia, Pa., studying under Dr. Physick as well as with Dr. Rush, and attended the course of lectures at the University of Pennsylvania. About the year 1814 he commenced the practice of medicine at Connellsville, Pa., removing about 1817 to locate in Kittanning.

He was married July 4, 1826, to Margaret, eldest daughter of Robert Brown, whose father, James Brown, St., served in the American army throughout the Revolutionary war. With the exception of a single interruption, a temporary residence in the city of Pittsburgh, where Judge Neale was born, he continued in active practice in Kittanning until his death in 1857-a period of thirty-eight years. He belonged to various medical societies and was held in high esteem in that profession. His death occurred Aug. 22, 1857. His wife died March 18, 1851. Both Dr. Neale and his wife are buried in the Kittanning cemetery. Dr. Neale was survived by three sons and two daughters: Charles T., James B., Alonzo P., Rebecca B. and Phebe I. Neale.

A brief account of the early life of Judge Neale is contained in the National Encyclopedia of American Biography (James T. White & Co., New York), Volume VI, page 190:


"James B. Neale was educated at the public schools of his native city and at Elder's ridge Academy. He early entered business as a clerk, then studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1862. He commenced the practice of law in Kittannning as a partner of his preceptor, E. S. Golden. He spent the year 1871 at the University of Leipzig, Germany, and on his return to American resumed the practice of his profession, making his home at Kittanning, Pa. From 1876 to 1881 he was editor of the 'Union Free Press,' the Republican organ of Armstrong county. Governor Hoyt appointed him president judge of Thirty-third Judicial district of Pennsylvania in 1879, and the same year he was elected to the office at the fall election as the candidate of the Republican party. He held the office for the full term of ten years, until January, 1890. On retiring from judicial office he resumed the practice of law. Judge Neale was married July 28, 1885, to Anna, daughter of Simon Truby, of Kittanning."


After his admission to the Armstrong county bar, in 1862, Judge Neale entered into a partnership with the late Judge Joseph Buffington, a former judge of Armstrong county. He later became a partner of Edward S. Golden, a prominent attorney of Kittanning, the firm being known as Golden an Neale. When he was appointed president judge in 1879 it was to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Hon. Jackson Boggs. At the expiration of his appointive term, as has been stated, he was elected as the candidate of the Republican party for the full term of ten years. During his term on the bench he proved himself a jurist of keen judgment and unswerving integrity of purpose. At the expiration of his elective term in 1890 he again came before the people for reelection as the Republican nominee, but owing to the fact that he had become very prominent as an advocate of the temperance cause, refusing all licenses during the last few; years of his term, he was bitterly opposed by the liquor interests and was defeated. Upon retiring from the bench, in 1890, he formed a partnership for the general practice of law with John H. Painter, Esq., under the firm name of Neale and Painter, which partnership continued until his death, Dec. 31, 1903.

Judge Neale was a Son of the American Revolution, president of the Merchants' National Bank of Kittanning, which institution he was instrumental in organizing, a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, and a member of St. Paul's Protestant Episcopal Church of Kittanning.

One of Judge Neale's old-time associates at the bar says of him: "He had the temperament of the Irish race; being very strong in his feelings and decided in his views, and very genial. During his term on the bench he displayed a high sense of the duties of his position, and his influence was very great in maintaining the honor and dignity of the profession. In his earlier career he was a business man, and his knowledge of business methods was broad and well defined. As a lawyer his practice was largely of a commercial nature, though after the responsiblities of the judgeship devolved upon him he became a close student of all branches of the law, and his decisions were in the main sustained by the higher court, a strong proof of his ability. One of the Judge's notable accomplishments was the success of his influence toward cementing the friendships among members of the bar, which led to the forming of the Bar Association, and the attendant banquets and outings which gave pleasure and enjoyment to all who participated."

Source: Pages 368-369, Armstrong County, Pa., Her People, Past and Present, J.H. Beers & Co., 1914
Transcribed September 2001 by Linda M. Stitt for the Armstrong County Beers Project
Contributed for use by the Armstrong County Genealogy Project (http://www.pa-roots.com/armstrong/)

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